Geraldine McEwan

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Geraldine McKeown
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Geraldine McEwan
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Geraldine McEwan (née McKeown; 9 May 1932 – 30 January 2015) was an English actress with a diverse history in theatre, film and television.

McEwan was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 1998 for her performance in The Chairs. She also won a BAFTA Award for her performance in the television serial Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1990). From 2004 to 2009 she appeared as Miss Marple, the Agatha Christie sleuth, for the series Marple.

Geraldine McKeown was born on 9 May 1932 in Old Windsor, Berkshire, England, to Donald and Norah (née Burns) McKeown. She attended Windsor County Girls' School, then a private school, on a scholarship and took elocution lessons.

As a teenager McEwan became interested in theatre and her extensive theatrical career began at 14 as assistant stage manager at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. She made her first appearance on the Windsor stage in October 1946 as an attendant of Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream and played many parts with the Windsor Repertory Company from March 1949 to March 1951, including a role in the Ruth Gordon bio play Years Ago opposite guest player John Clark. She made her first West End appearance at the Vaudeville Theatre on 4 April 1951 as Christina Deed in Who Goes There!, which was markedly successful.

She appeared at the Stratford Memorial Theatre in the late 1950s and early 1960s, during the period when it was evolving into the Stratford venue for the new Royal Shakespeare Company formed in 1960, and at The Aldwych, the RSC's original London home. During the 1958 season in Stratford, she played Olivia in Twelfth Night, Marina in Pericles and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing. She returned to Stratford in 1961 to portray Ophelia in Hamlet and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

She appeared with Kenneth Williams in the original 1965 production of Loot by Joe Orton, which closed at the Wimbledon Theatre before reaching London. McEwan worked more than once with Laurence Olivier on both stage and screen, including Dance of Death staged by Glen Byam Shaw for the National Theatre at the Old Vic in February 1967. A film version of this production was released in 1969.

She took the lead role in a television adaptation of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1978). McEwan was Spark's favourite in the role; Brodie has also been portrayed by Maggie Smith and Vanessa Redgrave. Her other work for television in this period included roles in The Barchester Chronicles (1982) and Mapp and Lucia (1985-86) with Prunella Scales as Mapp and McEwan as Lucia. She won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress in 1983 for her performance in a production of The Rivals.

Later career

She made her directing debut in 1988 with the Renaissance Theatre Company's touring season, Renaissance Shakespeare on the Road, co-produced with the Birmingham Rep, and ending with a three-month repertory programme at the Phoenix Theatre in London. McEwan's contribution was a light romantic staging of As You Like It, with Kenneth Branagh playing Touchstone as an Edwardian music hall comedian. In the same season Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi also made their debuts as directors. She won another Evening Standard Best Actress Award in 1995 for her role in a revival of The Way of the World.

With Richard Briers, she starred from November 1997 in a revival of Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play The Chairs in a co-production between Simon McBurney's Theatre de Complicite and London's Royal Court Theatre, who had also staged the British premiere 40 years earlier. This production had a brief run on Broadway between April and June 1998; McEwan was nominated for a Tony Award.

Her later television credits include Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1990) and Mulberry (1992-93). She was also in the Cassandra episode of Red Dwarf (1999), playing a prescient computer. In Peter Mullan's The Magdalene Sisters, (2002), she played the role of Sister Bridget. McEwan played the evil Mortianna in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

McEwan was selected by Granada Television for Marple (2004-7), a new series featuring the Agatha Christie sleuth Miss Marple. McEwan announced her retirement from the role in 2008 after filming the third series. In 2005, she provided the voice of Miss Thripp in the film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death.

Private life

In 1953 McEwan married Hugh Cruttwell, whom she had first met while working at the Theatre Royal, Windsor aged 14. Cruttwell was the Principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1965 to 1984. They had a son Greg, who is an actor and screenwriter, and a daughter, Claudia. Cruttwell died in 2002.

McEwan was reported to have declined an OBE, and later, a DBE (in 2002), but she did not respond to these claims. McEwan died on 30 January 2015 at the Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith after suffering a stroke three months earlier.


  • 1983: London Evening Standard Award for Best Actress, for The Rivals
  • 1991: BAFTA for Best Actress, for Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
  • 1995: Evening Standard Best Actress Award for The Way of the World
  • 1998: Nominated: Tony Award Best Actress The Chairs



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